Two local members of Congress, Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Seth Moulton, are currently in self-quarantine over concerns that they have contracted the coronavirus. Pressley is now awaiting results from testing, but Moulton has not been able to get tested, and is calling on the government to take the pandemic more seriously. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Moulton about how he's feeling and his reaction to how the Trump administration is handling the outbreak. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: Sorry you're going through this. How are you feeling today?
Rep. Seth Moulton: I'm honestly feeling a lot better. I had fever, chills, body aches, a lot of fatigue and real tightness in my chest like I've never felt before. I seemed to be over the worst of it. My wife had very similar symptoms, but Liz is doing better, too. And the best news is that our 18-month-old daughter, Emmy, is totally fine, which, of course, is consistent with the experience of many people with this virus.
Mathieu: Well, you're a bit of a case study here, Congressman. I wondered first if you wanted to be tested, if you preferred to be tested, and if the reason why you were not is because you went to the V.A..
Moulton: Well, of course, I want to be tested because we'd like to know. There's a chance that this is not COVID-19 [and] it's some other virus. I think it'd be a remarkable coincidence. The doctor said that we're symptomatic, but because we don't have symptoms that would put us in the hospital, the prescription is for us to just stay at home. And that wouldn't change whether we test positive or negative. Therefore, don't take a test from someone who might need it more.
And I understand that rationale, but the bottom line is that anybody who is symptomatic should be getting tested. We know that asymptomatic people like Sen. Rand Paul are still testing positive for this disease, so the fact that we don't have enough tests for people who are classified as symptomatic, like my wife and me, that's a real problem.
Mathieu: Well, so what do we think is going on here? You're a member of Congress. I suspect there's somebody you could call when we hear about, for instance, entire basketball teams being tested or the senator from Kentucky, for that matter. Is it just about who you know?
Moulton: Well, maybe it is. I suppose if I really pressed on this and made a big stink, I could get a test, too. We're obviously concerned about taking tests from someone who needs it more, but we need to get to a place quickly as a country where anybody with symptoms can get a test and not worry about it. I sent a letter to the vice president about this a month ago, long before I personally had any symptoms or even before this virus expanded so dramatically across the country. I said we have got to be able to test. And this is a massive failure of the administration not to allow the World Health Organization tests that all these other countries are using, to not make sure that the CDC tests was working — it wasn't at first. And bottom line is, we need to be testing tens of thousands of people in America every day, and that's not happening.
Mathieu: When I consider being a member of Congress, my goodness, the number of hands you shake. The number of people you interact with. Do you worry about this becoming a pandemic within the halls of Congress?
Moulton: Oh, absolutely. I brought this up with my colleagues again a month ago and I said, you've got to take this really seriously because just think about this: if you wanted to spread this virus around the country, what better strategy can you come up with than take 535 people who go to every corner of the country on a weekend, shake as many hands as they possibly can, meet as many different people, and then all come back to Washington, where we get into a room more crowded than any high school auditorium in America? And then four or five days later, go back out and do the same thing. It's like a perfect way to spread this virus and to get infected ourselves.
So my office went into coronavirus preparedness three or four weeks ago. We established a three-level protocol that I'm grateful has been adopted by many other members of Congress in their offices to just start self-isolating, to start reducing the office staff and work remotely as early as we could. But I don't think that happened enough across the government. I was calling for tours in the Capitol to be shut down long before they were. And the bottom line is that there are a lot of people who haven't recognized the seriousness of this soon enough, and I do think there's a risk that huge echelons of the government could be infected by this virus.
Mathieu: All of that said, we're in the midst of this stimulus debate. The Senate passed a massive stimulus package last night. Congressman Moulton, the House is set to vote tomorrow. The idea of remote voting is floated. Now, I know your colleague Rep. Jim McGovern is looking at some options there, but I'm presuming you will not be able to vote. How will this work tomorrow?
Moulton: Well, in fact, that's the main reason why I decided to go public with this and to share what my wife and I have been going through, because I won't be able to travel to Washington to vote. Now they're talking about doing a voice vote, which means that we essentially just all agree not to object to this. The current plan is to pass this by a voice vote, which means that there's no debate [and] there's no voting by individual members of Congress.
This is the largest stimulus in American history. I don't think that's the right way to do this. I think we should all have our voices heard. But what's most important, of course, is just getting this over the finish line for Americans who are out of jobs [and] families who are trying to figure out their way through this crisis. We've got to get people support and we've got to do it as soon as possible.
Mathieu: Lastly, Congressman, how do you feel about what is inside this bill? More specifically, the idea of sending checks to Americans? Is that the best way to use government funding to blunt the impact of the virus?
Moulton: It's a good first start because people need immediate help. What some people wanted to do initially was just give corporate tax breaks that would hopefully work their way down to people who have lost their jobs. That's not the way to do this. We need to just get people money who have literally found themselves on the street without a job [and] not sure how they're going to go to the grocery store next week. We need to do that as quickly as possible. So it's not perfect, Joe, but it's an important first step.
Mathieu: Congressman Seth Moulton, we appreciate the time this morning. I do hope you're feeling better. We're doing our best to observe social distancing as you and I are both talking to each other from home, which has to be a first. But I hope that you're better with every hour.
Moulton: Thanks, Joe. I think the message for everybody is, even if you have minor symptoms, take this seriously. Make sure you are keeping yourself and your family safe, and you're not infecting anybody else as this disease continues its spread.